Recommended Settings

edited May 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3300 Forum
I have just purchased the D3300 and was wondering if anyone could recommend some basic settings that I could use?
I want to be able to adjust aperture, iso etc however is there a sort of cheat sheet that your camera should be set to right off the bat? I have been going through the menu and it is quite intimidating to a newbie. This is my first DSLR, in fact my first ever camera, apart from my phone of course. I have downloaded Moose's cheat sheets for taking different types of images but was hoping someone would be able to help with the other stuff.
I have been watching tutorials etc online but I can't seem to find this information.
Thank you for your help.


  • edited May 2015
    Most of the other stuff is less relevant, and some is a matter of taste. Your best bet is probably to experiment. Wherever there is a setting you can change, try changing it and see what the effect is. Erase what you don't like. If you can't tell a difference, leave it at the default.

    I will add a couple of my own preferences with the D3200.

    I usually use manual ISO and tend to prefer aperture priority, adjusting ISO as needed to keep shutter speed where I want it.

    Matrix metering works well most of the time. For dark subjects in light surroundings such as snow, beaches and backlighting, switch to spot metering so that the meter is not fooled by bright lights that are not the subject you're aiming at. For portraits in which your subject occupies a large part of the frame, center weighted averaging works well.

    I set AF to Dynamic Area and A mode for most uses. It will start on your chosen focus point and track movement. Set it to Single mode if you want to focus and recompose reliably.

    For picture control, I prefer normal. You can modify color later in post processing.

    Raw mode gives you the best density and the most versatility for post processing.

    I don't use flash much, but leave it on auto mode for fill flash in P, S, A and M modes. Because I often shoot with oddball manual macro lenses, it's more often in manual mode.

    I usually leave "Active D-Lighting" off. This feature is defaulted on in the D3200 and probably also the D3300. It increases dynamic range a bit, and helps to pull out shadow detail. However, if your object is contrasty shadow detail, it can tend to wash dark areas out. If you shoot in Raw mode, you can do it in post processing, and if you use a non-Nikon program to read Raw files, not all read the d-lighting correctly. To some extent, D-lighting can stand in for a bit of exposure compensation. In difficult situations, including evening shots where silhouetting can be a problem, it's handy.

    In the playback menu, I recommend that you enable the additional display options for playing back an image. You can get all the EXIF information, and also the histogram, which gives you a graphic representation of exposure, and the highlight image (a.k.a. the "blinkies") in which blown highlights are shown as flashing black areas.

    In the setup menu, set the "file number sequence" so that each picture has a unique file number, rather than restarting with each new folder. This will make it much easier to keep track of dates, and also much easier to download quantities of pictures when traveling without accidentally overwriting any. The numbers reset to zero only after 10,000 images. If you do a lot of pictures, you may want to reset the counter before a big trip if it's getting close to 10 thousand. I forgot to do this last winter on a trip to Antarctica and found it very difficult to set the order of images in Windows later because the counter reset halfway through.

    I assign the front Fn button to ISO, since I regularly change manual ISO.

    That's about all I can think of at the moment, and I'm about to head off for the day so have to stop, but I hope that helps a little.
  • edited May 2015
    This is perfect, thank you so much! Just what I was looking for.
    Sorry for my delay in responding but the email notification went into spam.
    I really appreciate your help.
    Thanks Bruto.
  • edited June 2015
    Same as Kelly, I am a newbie and this is my first DSLR camera. It took me 2 years to have this baby and I'm not disappointed with it. I want to try night photography; could you recommend a setting? Also, when should I use the flash? I don't like flash because it flashes the face of my subject and it creates shine in to their faces. Is there a way to compensate for that, like higher exposure or ISO maybe?

    By the way this site and Moose are awesome. I am spreading this site to my friends like wildfire. I mean really, they give answers here that are spot on. Regards!
  • edited June 2015
    For night photography, a tripod is essential. If you want true night look (for example, lights on water, bridges lit up, etc.) you will likely need to go to manual exposure in order to prevent the meter from over-exposing, and manual ISO for the same reason. If you allow the meter to judge your exposure, chances are good that it will try to open up dark shadows and you'll end up with an odd moonlit appearance. That can be pretty interesting, but only if you mean to get it. If you shoot in Raw mode, you can do this and then decrease exposure by a couple of stops and in the process end up with less digital noise. But make sure auto ISO is off when you're on a tripod, since long shutter speeds are preferable to raising the ISO.

    On the cameras that allow a wireless shutter release (D3100 does not, unfortunately), you need a wireless release to achieve long shutter times over 30 seconds. If you set the shutter on "bulb" and use wireless release, the shutter opens on the first button push, and closes on the second. This is the only way to get a true hands-off time exposure.

    For actual settings, it's pretty much guesswork, but if you are, for example, doing a night shot of lights in a harbor, I'd start with ISO 100 (auto ISO off), a middle F stop range, and aperture priority mode. That will give you an exposure time up to 30 seconds. If it comes out too light then, switch to manual exposure and go to a higher shutter speed. If it is too dark, either raise the ISO, or go to manual and use remote release to increase shutter time beyond 30 seconds. Once you have a good idea of what combination of ISO, shutter time and aperture gets you what you want, you can go manual with some confidence, and produce the variations you need. At very long exposures, you generally need not be too exact. If you're up in the minutes, a few seconds here or there aren't that important.

    As for flash, you may never get the look you like from the built-in flash, because you cannot direct it. ISO won't help this. It will always shine right at the subject. A flash that can be aimed away from the subject helps a lot. Portrait artists often use off-camera flashes, light boxes, diffusers and all manner of devices to soften the shadow effect.
  • Thanks so much, I really appreciate this.
  • edited June 2015
    Hi it's me again. I'm really sorry for asking so many questions, but I just have to ask this - my friends and I are going to the beach next week and I wanted to try beach photography. I will be photographing them and the beach as well, so could you somehow give me the proper settings for that? This is very important for me because they expect me to have their photos taken (besides I'll be learning beach photography at the same time). Again, thanks for the answers and guides in advance, I really appreciated it.
  • edited June 2015
    Your main issue at the beach will be similar to the problem on snow; the camera's meter will likely underexpose, trying to keep the bright beach from being too bright. In the process, small details like people's faces will tend to come out much too dark. When you shoot people in this environment, you will pretty much have to make a high key shot with the background blown out.

    To avoid silhouetted people, add a stop or two of exposure compensation. Instead of compensating, you can spot meter on a person, but make sure you have your AE lock correctly set so you can hold it when you recompose.

    A few silhouettes can be nice too, especially if the sun is hitting the water, or if the sky is interesting.

    Active D-lighting on can help a little here with shadow recovery.

    Watch for sun position because people will tend to have "raccoon eyes" when the light is overhead. Though it seems counter intuitive when everything is so bright, a fill flash can help with portraits here. In P, S, A or M mode, when you manually pop up the flash, it will do fill. I would try that, but not depend solely on it. Try it with and without.

    If you're unsure of what overall settings to use, you can probably do well here in P mode, which will allow you to dial in exposure compensation as needed. Keep your IS0 starting point at 100. If you're shooting with a normal lens on a bright day, focus will probably not be so critical, but if you are doing specific people in a crowd, you probably will do better with dynamic area or 3D focus than with auto area, so as to avoid focusing on the wrong people.

    If possible, shoot in Raw mode so that you can do exposure compensation in post. View NX2 allows up to two stops + or -. You can also get some shadow recovery. If you habitually shoot in Raw mode you can leave active D-lighting off and add as needed later. If you use programs other than Nikon's to read Raw files, they may not interpret active D-lighting correctly. But if you're shooting JPG, it's no problem as the camera handles it.

    Make sure you don't get sand in the camera. Be very careful if changing lenses.

    Keep an eye on composition, and if you're shooting at the water make sure your horizon is level.
  • edited July 2015
    Awesome! Thanks so much for these tips. :)
  • edited July 2015
    I seem to have a problem with selecting ISO sensitivity settings in auto mode? Why is that? I am in Aperture mode and I can only select 100 - Hi values but the auto is grayed out.

  • edited July 2015
    @junix, this is normal. Nikon documentation is lousy on this, but in short the "auto" setting in P, S, A and M modes is entirely different from that in other modes. In P, S, A and M modes, auto ISO is a menu selection only. It's either on or off. Once set, you then set a starting ISO as you would manually, and the auto setting changes it as the camera's meter requires. You will not see the selection it makes until the shot is done. In other modes, "auto" means that the camera selects an ISO and you have no say at all. If you select a manual ISO in those modes, it prevails and the camera will not change it at all.

    Remember that when in Auto mode for P, S, A and M modes, you still should manually set an ISO as a starting point. Since the camera's brain takes over and ensures a good exposure, there's really no reason to set it at anything but 100. It will always then choose the lowest ISO it can get away with, which is best.

    So, in either auto or manual mode, the "auto" setting will be grayed out in P, S, A and M. You can only select it in the menu. While you're in the menu you also have the option of telling it what maximum ISO it will go to. Whatever max you set will also be the max to which you can manually select. You can't override it unless you go back to full manual, so don't set it too low. The display will show a selection but it will not actually be used if it's above the set max. You can also select the shutter speed at which auto ISO shifts the ISO. The default of 1/30 second is safe, but can be unnecessarily high if you're reasonably steady and using a shorter lens with VR. Experiment with your hand holding ability and you might find it useful to lower that setting.
  • edited July 2015
    Phew, that's a relief. I really thought my camera was busted or something. Thanks for clearing that up Bruto. Thank you so much, more power to you guys! More questions are yet to come hehehe.
Sign In or Register to comment.